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Do you feel excluded at work?

Communication at the work place

Being in your sealed bubble of music and day dreams may help you work productively but it could also get you an unwanted label...

August 27, 2012 12:48 by



Have you ever had your headphones plugged in at work, your favourite music blasting through your ears but you couldn’t help but feel fluctuating surges of anxiety? You turn around every few minutes, try make the best of your peripheral vision but the feeling of paranoia continues.

You worry that a colleague is trying to reach you, ask you a question or suggest an idea that you might miss but you convince yourself that you need the music to stay loose and creative. Before you know it, another colleague taps you on the shoulder to get your attention; you hurriedly tug your earphones out and turn around. By now the colleague has your attention but others may be looking at you as they too were ‘awaken’ by the repetitive callings of your name. He/she ends up repeating their question or statement, which is all well and good you think. You shrug it off without a second thought but the impression has stuck.

The good news is that you aren’t alone in this but the bad news is (if you are a hater of change); you may have to change this habit. Listening to music or being absent minded at the office may feel like the right path for you but it could also do more damage to the team’s overall creativity and communication.

“If an employee is glued to her desk with headphones on, immersed in music and G-chatting with her best buddy, she is missing the opportunity to create relationships with people on the job who might be launching a project for which she’d be perfect, or who’s kicking around the idea to launch a new firm that needs precisely her talents,” says Ann Kreamer, author of It’s Always Personal: Emotions in the New Workplace. “It’s a huge and real loss in terms of career development.”

Kipp believes in the power of informal surveys. Sure the sample is substantially smaller but the feedback is thrice as honest and thrice as long. Informal interviews encourage emotional feedback and elaboration. Did you know that most people have their headphones plugged in at least half the day (off and on) in a typical office?

A report on the Harvard Business Review takes us through Kreamer’s informal survey taken with a dozen people that she knew personally, under the age of 35, who worked in various positions in different offices. The responses – generally followed by a justification on how it affects them positively – included wearing headphones at least half the time at work and chatting with friends/relatives or the outside world throughout the day.

One person that Kreamer spoke to looks upon this ‘addiction’ as a guilty pleasure.”Wearing headphones actually makes me feel anxious a lot of the time, because I’m always worried that someone might ask me a question or say something to me and I’ll miss it.”

But still, many continue justify their dependence on technological and musical (headphones) luxuries at the office by saying that it provides a bubble of solidarity, which in turn leads to greater focus and productivity. Of course, Kipp can definitely see how locking yourself in your own world can help you focus when you need to but opening yourself up most of the time sounds more beneficial

There are undoubtedly positive aspects to using music or chat to remain focused and motivated but bear in mind that it really also depends on the kind of work you do and whether you are alone in your office or surrounded by a team of colleagues.

Also keep in mind that advantages generally require no preparation, only celebration. Beware though, because falling into the trap of having headphones plugged in throughout the day or staying locked inside your bubble can eventually cause you to feel lonely and excluded, especially if you are a fresher. Initially, you may feel perfectly content as you hum along to your favourite tune and leave Facebook messages for your old college friends. But as time rolls on and new ideas, meetings, suggestions or changes arise; the rest of the team may have already added you to their default list of excluded folk.

Communicating with your colleagues shouldn’t be seen as a chore because not only does it increase your chances of having progressive career development and hours of productivity, but it also creates a strong sense of camaraderie. Particularly for those who, more often than they would hope, feel a lot of frustration during a work day, friendly or creative communication can be wondrous for raising spirits.

On the other hand, being absent-minded could, especially over a period of time, can cause you to miss out on creative conversations, new developments, friendships or even office gossip!

Do you generally have your headphones plugged in at work? How often do you find yourself absent minded and have you witnessed or experienced a disadvantage or has it all been hunky-dory so far?



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